Alaskan students construct spacecrafts fit for Mars landing at ExxonMobil Bernard Harris Summer Science Camp

04-Aug-2015 ANCHORAGE, Alaska – Today, 48 Alaskan middle school students had an out-of-this-world experience during the ExxonMobil Bernard Harris Summer Science Camp with Alaska Native Science and Engineering Program (ANSEP) at the University of Alaska Anchorage (UAA). As part of the program’s science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) curriculum, students participated in the Mars Lander Challenge, a space-themed competition inspired by camp founder and veteran astronaut Dr. Bernard Harris Jr.

Students learned about Harris’ journey to become the first African American to walk in space and the extreme elements he encountered during his two shuttle missions. Then, using household materials, students engineered spacecrafts capable of absorbing the shock of a planetary landing. ANSEP staff and ExxonMobil engineers worked alongside campers, offering guidance as they built their spacecrafts.

“From building spacecrafts to designing robots and bridges, students see first-hand how science, technology, engineering and math come alive through real-world applications,” said Dr. Bernard Harris Jr., president, The Harris Foundation.

The all-expenses-paid camp focuses on teamwork and hands-on activities such as creating rockets, roller coasters and model homes using specially designed software. Additionally, teachers show campers math and science at work in their community through field excursions to local ecosystems, nature parks and area museums.

“The Bernard Harris camp program is a key avenue for students to experience STEM fields at an early age,” said Suzanne McCarron, president of the ExxonMobil Foundation. “Inspiring today’s youth to develop an interest – and ultimately pursue careers – in math, science and engineering is critical to ensuring the next generation of leaders is armed with innovative skills to address the challenges of the 21st century.”

The ExxonMobil Foundation and The Harris Foundation have partnered for 10 consecutive years to bring math and science camps to more than 9,500 underserved students and help close the achievement gap. This is the sixth year ANSEP has been selected to participate in the program.

“ANSEP students and staff look forward to the ExxonMobil Bernard Harris Summer Science Camp every year, as it provides unique, hands-on learning activities that gets our students excited about STEM,” said ANSEP Founder and Vice Provost Dr. Herb Ilisaurri Schroeder. “ANSEP prides itself in providing inspiration, guidance, and opportunity to students from 95 communities across Alaska, and we want to thank ExxonMobil and The Harris Foundation for supporting these efforts.”

For more information, visit www.theharrisfoundation.org.